I’m not new to tile (I had written about it over the years in my prior incarnation at Remodelista), but being around it every day at clé had my head spinning. So many colors and surfaces to choose from. The options seemed endless. I found myself falling in love with one tile only to abandon it the next week when something new came along.
I was renovating our kitchen and was in the market for a backsplash while still deciding upon what to use as a new countertop. Every week I would take home a tile or two and sit them on my counter where they could catch the light at the beginning of the day and I would see how they changed with the arc of the sun.
When it comes to design, I err towards natural tones and pared-down interiors. No maximalism for me - and frankly more fitting for a simple 70 year old farmhouse. My first love was zellige and I began with Weathered White (too much bling), Natural Zellige was a strong contender but then Fornace Brioni's Giulio Romano stole my heart with its earthy tones of traditional cotto rosato and fluted indented tubes. I had to rein myself in - tiles inspired by the moulded pillars of classical architecture - who was I kidding?? They were beautiful but a little too grand of a statement for my galley kitchen. Then New California, a collection of nine glazed tiles was launched and I courted each one with equal enthusiasm feeling like I was having to choose a favorite child, each speaking to me in a different way.
Then happenstance prevailed. There were several boxes of Strata Linea left over from one of the floors in the clé studio so I took one home. I had still been wrestling with what material to use as a countertop when it occurred to me that these stone planks could be used on the counter. They had all the heft of stone but were in easily installable planks. All the earthy colors, both light and dark, had a quiet harmony that added subtle visual interest. Countertop conundrum no more. I brought the rest of the leftover boxes home and laid out a color pattern of sorts. Since the collection features more travertine and ajloun in honey-colored tones, I began with those at one end by the sink then gradually added some pink sahwari then some the darker grays and maroons of daba’s and beirziet at the far end of the 17 foot counter. My only edit was the carrara marble that I ultimately removed as the white of the stone picked up too much white from the walls and interrupted the subtle neutrals and earth tones of the rest of the tiles.
For the installers, I diligently numbered every tile and every row to ensure the right pattern was installed, (with only one tile out of place due to a breakage). I picked a neutral matching grout and used butt joints so the grout lines are barely visible. I used Stonetech BulletProof® Sealer, a food-safe product to seal the tile and then use Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-surface Everyday Cleaner for upkeep.
How has the tile fared? Just like any other stone countertop (think marble, for example). Acids aren’t its friend and I cook - a lot, which means at some point it was only inevitable that lemon juice or vinegar would eventually leave its mark. That said, although I love patina, unlike a white marble surface there is so much color variation between the stones it is actually hard to notice.
Strata Linea had always seemed such a grand tile to me, but in this incarnation, it became the perfect neutral backdrop with just enough visual interest. When I prepare my coffee in the mornings, I marvel at the tiny fossils in the tile reminding me of the thousands of years of history embedded in the stone - a nice daily reminder of how small we all are in the bigger picture of things.
As for the backsplash, the hunt is over. It was the countertop that was the statement I never knew I needed.